Review Summary: Blasphemous, Eerie, Disturbing, Lengthy..... and pure Genius.
I'm not a religious kind of guy. I don't believe in God or any higher power or anything like that. It may be the music I listen to which pushes me away from religion, or it may have been my awful dread of going to Church as a child, I honestly don't know. It may be stereotypical of me to have these beliefs because I listen to the most blasphemous form of music in existence, but I don't think that is the cause. The fact remains though that the finger remains pointed in the direction of heavy metal when this whole "Satanism" idea comes to play, when there are obscure murders or suicides or any other bizarre circumstance. I could honestly tell you that if a person who listened to metal ended up killing themselves, the first words out of family member's mouths would be something along the lines of "I knew that Satanic crap he/she listened to caused this". Stop there. I'm sick and tired of stereotypes, sick of it. Metal is just another form of expression, and any Satanic subject matter is the choice of the individual band, exercising their right of free speech, and their poems and dark literature never go without recognition with me.
Now that I've put that out, let me introduce Deathspell Omega. These guys are the real deal when it comes to Satanic Black Metal. However, the way they approach it is in a totally different respect than bands such as Carpathian Forest, Darkthrone, Mayhem, or the countless other Black Metal bands. Deathspell Omega doesn't use Satanism as an excuse to talk about gore, blasphemy, genocide, or misanthropy. Deathspell Omega takes a look at Satan in the view of him as a God, and they treat him as such, which is why this band is simply so creepy. There are speculations as to the identities of the band members, but this is all simply irrelevant, because Deathspell Omega create some of the most innovative Black Metal in years. Incorporating the usual grinding guitars, screeching vocals, and crashing cymbals and drums with the epic-ness of Gregorian Chants and other symbolic religious dialogue, a truly unique sound is created.
The album, Si Monumentum Requires Circumspice, is almost absurdly long for a Black Metal album (about 80 minutes), it may tire out even seasoned Black Metal listeners. 1.2 hours of Black Metal is a lot to stomach in one sitting, but with Deathspell Omega they divide the album into 3 respective sections, each section beginning with a "Prayer". "First Prayer" begins the album, with "Sola Fide I & II" (both separate tracks but meant to be a duo) following. Then "Second Prayer" eases the music down, giving you a well deserved break from the pummeling of the first 3 tracks (clocking in at a lengthy 19 minutes). "Blessed Are The Dead Whiche Dye In The Lorde" and "Hetoimasia" comprise the second section, which is of average length but contains maximum intensity. The final breathtaking section begins with "Third Prayer" and is made up of "Si Monumentum Requires Circumspice", "Odivm Nostrvm", "Jvbilate Deo (O Be Joyfvl in the Lord)", "Carnal Malefactor", "Drink the Devil's Blood", and "Malign Paradigm". This section is very hard to listen to back to back, because it lasts 42 minutes, which is the length of many whole albums. The track ordering is flawless, because each song sort of melts into each other, creating a harmony and grace unlike any Black Metal album I've heard before.
All of the "Prayer" songs consist of guitar riffs and drums, just like any normal song, but the vocals are absent, save eerie chants and ominous voices amidst the static, truly setting the foggy, creepy atmosphere of this album. The real tracks are put together without flaw. A simple guitar riff usually kicks it off, then during the course of the song it trades between almost melodic interludes back the brutal reality that Deathspell Omega is achieving with this album. Nothing is overly melodic and the riffing almost never gets highly technical, but this is Black Metal. They do get really symphonic and epic, during songs like "Jvbilate Deo (O Be Joyfvl in the Lord)". The riff during the closer "Malign Paradigm" is also very melodic and epic, but they manage to retain the cold, black grinding which is Black Metal guitar.
The vocals are a bit different for Black Metal. They are not so much screeched as they are grunted, but with that raspy undertone which lets you know that this is in fact Black Metal. They aren't really that fast, and Deathspell Omega is great with putting the point across that they are going to take their damn time with these songs, which you can immediately tell by the length of this album. My favorite vocal performance is in the epic track "Carnal Malefactor" in which the vocals are slowly let out, before the guitars simply cut off unexpectedly, and then slowly from the distance fades in.... wait this can't be right.... it is.... religious hymns and chants, creating simply one of the most eerie and jaw dropping moments I've ever had with a metal album. It's just so beautiful and melancholic I can't describe it to you, but this blissful look at hope is all you get here, but my god what an emotion this conveys, simply one of the most beautiful parts I have ever heard in a metal song.
The lyrics are all dark and very shocking because they utilize real statements made by churches, making the Satanic tone here all too clear. At some points it is hard to decipher whether Deathspell Omega is talking about God or Satan, making the lyrics that much more thought provoking. The last track is like another "Prayer", being an instrumental. Drifting in and out of reality you are confronted with a barrage of fuzz, giving away to the empty howls of wind and the chants of the monks….then static…and finally, closure.
It's amazing to see how a genre such as Black Metal continues to evolve with bands like Deathspell Omega reinventing the formula by adding their own style, one which is dark, twisted, and shocking, but nonetheless breathtaking. Their incorporation of religious statements and that amazingly somber chanting of monks and clergymen is something I have never heard before, but it fits into this album like religion and Black Metal were partners, something which may strike you as completely wrong, but the way this album was written it simply works. Deathspell Omega would be hard pressed to top this release, but for now this is as good as it gets in terms of new Black Metal because stuff like this hasn't been around since the early 90's. Truly an experience to listen to. If you see this, buy it.
Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice
Sola Fide I & II